Hubs has always been super fit. He’s a natural athlete who excels at everything he tries (yeah, like that’s never annoying), and he’s been in construction for 30 years, so he has no need for pedestrian things like treadmills and rowing machines at home. For years, he’s been able to buy jeans simply by size. Dressing rooms are an enigma this man. “Why do people need to try these on?” he asks, looks slightly confused. “There’s a size label right on the back.” I grit my teeth and try to explain that, unlike most women, men have no need to haul 14 pairs in 12 different fits and 7 brands into a stuffy dressing room, jumping up and down to hike them up and hating them all, until we finally give up, sweaty and defeated, leaving the entire pile in a twisted heap on the floor as we exit the store in our yoga pants, empty-handed, doing the walk of shame to the nearest wine bar. Well, maybe not all women. Okay, maybe just me.
But over the last few years, Hubs has, well…gotten older. Like many men, he’s finding that middle age, while bringing a certain level of wisdom and inner peace, can also come with physical changes that they don’t always anticipate or prepare for. Hubs just assumed that he’d always look like he did in college. All buffed, defined, and hot.
Women know better. Menopause hits us like a speeding Mac truck, letting us know in no uncertain terms that we are no longer young. We’re fully aware that we will forever battle with butts and boobs heading south with the determination of migrating geese in the winter. We’re prepared for the sudden appearance of back fat and chin hair. We sigh over the inevitable weight gain, and regularly inspect the backs of our thighs like zealous Pinkerton agents, pinching for fat clumps we know everybody else can see, even if we can’t.
Women prepare for midlife in a number of ways. Almost every woman I know over 40 has a minimum of two sizes in her closet. Her “skinny clothes” and her “fat clothes.” Some women have three or four size options. In the same closet. Choices on any given day depend on our weight, our mood, and our confidence levels.
Hubs can get dressed in a blackout. He reaches into his closet, grabs something that feels like jeans, tosses on a t-shirt and his one pair of sneakers, and he’s good to go. No lighting necessary. And not even a glance in a mirror on his way out. (But I’m not jealous. Really, I’m not.)
However, this last year, he had a little taste of “life on the other side.”
One morning, he sat down at breakfast and announced we were going shopping. It seemed that all his jeans were too tight. “Are you using a different laundry soap?” he asked, looking befuddled when his couldn’t button his beloved 501s. “It’s not the soap, sweetie,” I replied, “You need a 36.” “How is that possible?” he stuttered, ” I wear a 34.” “No,” I said, “you wore a 34. You wear a 36.” “Well,” he sighed, “This just sucks.” He wasn’t happy about it, and neither of us mentioned it again. Until the 36s didn’t fit.
We were shopping for some trousers for an upcoming event, and the sales guy looked at Hubs and smiled, “So, Sir, a 38 pant?” Oh, crap. Hubs looked horrified, grabbed me by the arm and hauled me into the dressing room. “A 38 pant?” he whispered, “Is he kidding me??” “Well, honey,” I scrambled for an answer that wouldn’t hurt his feelings but was still grounded in reality (he had been hitting the late-night Ben & Jerry’s pretty hard that winter), “It’s not about you. Lots of clothes are made in Taiwan now. The fit models are tiny little people, so their 38 and our 38 can be very different. Plus, there’s a lot of play in seam allowances. You need to just ignore the size label and go for the fit.” (Seriously, by now I was starting to babble.) “So do you think I’m fat??” he insisted. “No!” I said, “You’ve just put on a little weight because you’re less active and a little older. Nothing to worry about.” “Well,” he humphed,”As long as you don’t think I’m fat.” “Absolutely not,” I reassured him as best I could, “Honest.”
Eventually, Hubs got busy again at work and his weight returned to a more normal range. Then recently, as we were weeding out our closets, he found the pants he bought on that fateful day. He held them up, pulled them wide, and announced, “Look at these! Wow, these fit me last year.” “Uh huh,” I replied, trying quickly to change the subject because I knew where it was going. He looked over me, frowning, “You said I wasn’t fat. These are for a fat person. I was fat, wasn’t I?” “Well, fat is a subjective term,” I stammered. “And what was all that crap about ‘tiny Taiwanese people?” he demanded, “It doesn’t matter if they’re tiny. They were making clothes for big ol’ Americans, in a size 38, which I wore. And that seam allowance thing?? I believed you.” “Well, what was I supposed to say?” as I frantically tried to defend myself. “I asked you if I was fat, and you said no,” he accused, “Why didn’t you tell me??” “Because you never tell a fat person they’re fat,” I replied, “Every woman knows that. That’s just mean. But now that you’re not fat anymore, I can tell you. Holy crap, you were a chunky monkey.”
“You have no credibility anymore,” he grumbled, “But should I save these, just in case I ever get ‘not fat’ again?” “Can’t hurt,” I smiled, “You can just put them in the bottom drawer with mine.”
Fat pants. Apparently they’re not just for women anymore.